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D-CENT: Crowdsourced Law and Citizens initiatives Finland


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Presentation by Joonas Pekkanen at the Open Data for Open Society conference Riga, 19th of February 2015.

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D-CENT: Crowdsourced Law and Citizens initiatives Finland

  1. 1. Crowdsourced Law and Citizens Initiatives in Finland 19.2.2015 Joonas Pekkanen
  2. 2. Some Challenges in the Current Model • Citizens feel disenfranchised, lack of influence • Elections every 4 years are not enough for people who want to take part actively • Elected representatives lack expertise in increasingly complex issues • Issues are too big (climate change, global equality, etc) and exceed 4 year government term • The power of lobbyists, industry and economic drivers is emphasised • Internet has changed all aspects of life (how we work, communicate, meet people, follow news, etc) … except the way we make decision together 2
  3. 3. The Finnish Citizens Initiative 3 • Enshrined in the Constitution in 2012 - the latest basic right of Finnish citizens • The politicians’ monopoly to set their own agenda has been broken • Now 50 000 citizens can force any issue on the parliamentary agenda • Proposals can be either in law proposal format (§§§) or general suggestions for law-makers • Similar to the MP initiatives • The format determined how the initiative is processed • Initiatives can concern anything within the scope of parliamentary legislation powers excluding international treaties and direct budget issues
  4. 4. Launching & Supporting an Initiative 4 • No pre-censorship / moderation of the proposals before launching • At least 2 people with voting right (18 yrs) needed to launch an initiative • Support is collected online in Ministry of Justice’s website (, open source software • Online bank id’s or mobile verification is needed for launching and signing • Open Ministry helps in formulating law proposals and designing campaigns
  5. 5. How the Initiatives are Processed 5 • Initiatives are processed identically to government bills • initial plenary discussion => committee hearings and report => plenary session • In theory if not processed in time before parliament is disbanded, the initiative lapses • The committee arranges one open session, but rest of the sessions (expert hearings) are behind closed doors • The expert statements become public when the committee publishes its report • Citizens initiatives have been criticised for being inadequately prepared - although the committees could have improved them together with the initiators
  6. 6. What Initiatives Have been Done? 6 • More than 320 initiatives have been launched • 9 initiatives have reached the required 50k threshold, issues concerning: • Fur-farming • Same-sex marriages • Copyright reform • Swedish language • Energy certificates • Abortion • Birthing hospitals • Drunk driving • Child molestation • 6 have been given to the current parliament (3 wait for the next parliament to start work)
  7. 7. Example: Copyright Reform Campaign 7 Law team Volunteers Street team Partners Core team Open and collaborative law proposal editing, 1141 people supported draft Each has own Facebook group and/or mailing list Each arrange their own workshops
  8. 8. Example: “I do 2013” Campaign 8 Law team Policy / lobby team Regional team Media team Core team Semi-open law proposal editing Each has own Facebook group and/or mailing list Each arrange their own work
  9. 9. Example: “Energy Renovation 2015” Campaign 9 General Facebook group Events team Law team Expert team Policy / lobby team Partner team Volunteer team Media team Social media team Core team Active reqcruitment to all groups Each has own Facebook group and/or mailing list Each arrange their own workshops
  10. 10. Paul Baran (1964) 10
  11. 11. Types of Campaign Organizations 11
  12. 12. Characteristics 12 • Participants are not known to each other beforehand • Share a common value base • Requires the activity of one or few key people (fire starters) in the beginning • who are capable of exciting a few key people to join the “core” • who are capable and willing to distribute their power early enough • Self-organise using free online tools and social media • Facebook groups, google forms, google documents, etc.
  13. 13. D-CENT - How to Improve Current Tools? 13 • How to make the work for the fire starters as frictionless as possible • Make it easy to test if an idea has tractions • Make it easy to create the core group • How to make it easy to scale up the organisation • Make it easy to facilitate and link between self-organising sub- groups • Make it easy to make decision as a large open ended groups • Make it easy to keep track of various co-edited documents • Make it easy to manage, delegate and contribute to tasks
  14. 14. 14
  15. 15. Version Control for Laws and Crowdsourced Fixing 15 • Current laws, amendments to them and any new laws should be available to everyone in a version control system (similar to git in software development) • The origins of any individual clause could be tracked • For example, which lobby group suggested it in the drafting phase • Anyone should be able to comment, ask for clarifications or suggest changes to any clause • What processes needed to fix the laws that have received crowdsourced “patches” i.e. how should civil servants manage manage “pull requests” from the public
  16. 16. Open Ministry 16 • Non-profit civil society organisation without party-political links • Un-funded, volunteer-based • Founded in 2012 to advocate well functioning citizens initiative process and to help individual CI campaigns • Aims to make sure that lessons learned from earlier campaigns are put to use in future campaigns • Has been involved in 6 of the 9 initiatives that have reached the 50k threshold • Takes part in various projects to improve citizen participation, transparency and accountability including taking part in public discussion
  17. 17. Thank you web: twitter: @dcentproject facebook: